Last Tuesday was my first time leading a Write Stuff program/workshop and I went in not knowing exactly what to expect. I had sat in on a previous program Mandy had facilitated a couple months ago and because I have a background in writing, Mandy and I thought it would be fun and a good learning experience for me to lead a future program. To prepare, I had created a short PowerPoint featuring brief examples of and information on memoirs, the topic we would be focusing on for that session.
Accustomed to creating presentations for classes, it became apparent quickly that I had to change my methods in order to appeal to 4th and 5th graders, so keeping them to a handful of slides with lots of evocative images and few words was key. I don’t have much experience working with youth, so I am beyond thankful for Skokie Public Library for providing me with the opportunity to work with different age groups because they behave differently, both within a group and as individuals. Interacting with people of different ages not only teaches you about them but about yourself as well. During the Write Stuff session, I learned that kids learn in different ways, just as we do as adults.
I used some tips for helping kids write about a moment in their lives from Scholastic’s website, which provided interesting prompts and exercises to jog the memory. At the last minute, Mandy and I decided to include an exercise in which the more visual learners could draw their memories to help them flesh out the details. While it helped some, others poked holes with their pencils to release stress, which, in its own way, helped, too. Each of the kids had great memories to share, from one girl and how she got her bunny Dott, to when one boy fell off a ski lift as he was reaching down.
It takes patience to work with youth at any age. Yes, 9 to 13 year olds can be scatter-brained, but they’re so much fun to be around. Their energy is infectious and someone is bound to say or ask something that momentarily stumps you. I realize I only spent an hour with those kids, but on my drive home, I had a smile on my face and I am able to entertain the possibility of working in a school library with elementary or middle schoolers. This just reaffirms what most librarians have been saying, which is to do a little bit of everything to really figure out what you want to do. I still want to work with teens, but I am open to starting anywhere, because everything provides invaluable experience.